They say that form goes right out of the window in these type of matches, well that will be a collective wiping of the brow from both halves of North London. Both Arsenal and Tottenham do not have enough form to throw at present so trying to predict how this game will unfold is even more difficult that it usually is.
The confusion is further enhanced with both managers waiting on the fitness of several first team players. That said, Tottenham have a habit of crying injury only to turn up with the full complement of players. They are heading into boy who cried wolf territory now so I will ignore it. Aaron Lennon and his magical waving arm is one player that is allegedly doubtful for the game and I hope this one isn't a smoke screen. I don't need to tell you that we have struggled down our left for a number of weeks now, magically since Kieran Gibbs hobbled off at West Ham in fact. Lennon has plenty of pace to continue the damage made to our team on that flank and I hope work has been done on the training ground to help solidify that area.
It is amazing how quickly things change in football. Vito Mannone was Arsenal's best player at Manchester United and then Schalke but his lack of command in the penalty area last weekend against Fulham could result in his last game for a while as Szczesny is likely to come back into the side after being given the all clear from the manager.
While we have not seen the best from our Pole in goal (it's been exhausted enough I know) in recent times, he comes for crosses and often gets there. That has been missed along with his communication qualities. I hope this change brings out the positives in those around him, I mean those in a red and white shirt and not our arch enemy. I also hope that time away from first team football has helped Szczesny refocus on this game.
There has been a lot of talk about the possibility of a change of system from our usual 4-2-3-1 to a 3-5-2. I would love to know where that story actually came from. While the idea of that switch has grown on me and certainly intrigued me a lot, I am almost certain that Arsene Wenger wouldn't have all his players gallivanting around the world for their countries only to come back late and then dump them into a new system in the North London derby. Not only that but it could be suicidal against the pace of Bale, Lennon, Walker and company.
Speaking of which I hope Andre Vilas-Boas has memory failure and forgets what happened to his Chelsea team the last time we faced him on the touch line. Chelsea played a nice juicy high line which allowed Theo Walcott to have a field day against our good friend Ashley Cole, I hope that is the plan once more this afternoon. Walker aside, the Tottenham back four are not blessed with pace and it would be nice if Theo had room to run into at home because he rarely ever does in home fixtures. I mean we have been more than generous down our left so our opponents should do the same. They really should show good manners.
Mean Lean's Predicted Line Up:
Thomas Vermaelen is the obvious concern but apart from that, I look at this team and they are incomparable to some of the football that we have seen in recent weeks. This same fixture last season we fought, we harried and we worked our socks off and that imposed our game on them even after an unfortunate start, I hope the players are reminded of that today. They need to treat it as a derby and not just a case of 'relax and be patient' which often transcends into half hearted displays.
The weather has changed, many of the players are different from that day but the principle is the same. Fight for possession and use it wisely and quickly when you get it back. We do that and we will beat whatever Spurs throw at us, that I am convinced.
I have read many Gooners feeling good about Oliver Giroud continuing his recent good habit of finding the net that goes for myself also. He is playing with a spring in his step and we saw that spring first hand when he headed us ahead against Fulham last weekend. Theo's service was very good and that will be key once more from teh whole team. It is why I am looking forward to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain rediscovering his form of last season because he has very good delivery and we need as many people as possible supplying him at the right time as possible.
I would like to see more from our midfielders getting into good positions in the box when balls are played in whether that be high crosses or cut backs. The last time one of our midfielders connected with a cross in the box the ball flew into space. No more of that please Santi.
This is the first NLD for a few of the players so it is interesting to see how they cope with what is likely to be a game of high intensity. Luckily the likes of Santi Cazorla and Lukas Podolski did not feature very much if at all for their countries in midweek so hopefully they have a little bit more juice in their legs than what may have been.
The victory against this lot last season turned our season around at the right time and while nowhere near the same situation at this point, a victory could springboard this team onto levels that they should be so fingers crossed and good luck Arsenal.